Gerald vanHeerden: Communicating the Human Experience on Stage

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It isn’t often we get to interview a director of Gerald vanHeerden’s caliber. An award-winning director of new musical theatre works and plays, Gerald has been in the director’s chair for more than a quarter century and has worked with many distinguished arts organizations throughout New York City and the neighboring regions, including the Hudson Guild and June Havoc, Dorothy Streslin, and Harry du Jur theatres.

His focus is on the discovery and development of new plays, the conceptualization of new musical theatre, and the shepherding of new talent through his work as a teaching artist. He exemplified that mission for nearly a  decade as artistic director of the Midtown International Theatre Festival – a yearlong arts celebration that has become the stand-bearer of New York independent theatre.

Gerald holds a BFA in musical theatre from the Boston Conservatory and is a proud member of The Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers.

We were thrilled to sit down with him for a brief interview.

Mr. vanHeerden, share with us the “elevator story” of your arts career.

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I am a recognized stage director and twice nominated in the New York Theater Festival community for my work as director and recently concluded an eight-season run as Artistic Director Of Plays @ The Midtown International Theater Festival In 2017. 

 

 

 

 

 

Yours years shepherding works at the MITF surely gave you a unique perspective on how to communicate various message. This play has some serious dark subject matter even though we might find ourselves laughing from time to time. How do you direct something like this? 

From an authentic place of understanding of the humanity of the characters that have been conceived by the playwright. Create a safe place for questions and discovery in the rehearsal room with the actors assembled. 

What is your creative process procedure – how do you work with your actors?

My process as a director approaching a new work is like a blank canvas…rooted in text analysis and the discovery by the actors of the multi-layered process of using all the facets of their skill set to become the person in the script. Combined with active participation in driving there wants and needs. 

Living playwright … pros (and are there cons?)

There are tremendous pros to working with a living playwright. Most paramount is if they have command of the people and world they have conceived, there is a wealth of information and ideas to bring to the actors for discovery in the rehearsal room.

And where do YOU get your ideas?

Many of my ideas are a combination of having lived life and reflection upon that and probing the reasons we are motivated to behave in a certain way

What do you hope the audience takes away from this piece?

After finding human intimacy satisfaction thru struggle we can overcome any obstacle and are deserving of GOOD in our lives. 

Interesting. Now, you played an integral part of the NY Theatre, what do you think of today’s NY Festival Circuit?

It has many possibilities for getting new work up in its infancy in a range of economic producing models. There is an infinite variety of festivals with a different missions and models to explore the writing and connections to the audience for producers starting to become.

What’s next?

Fall, 2019… two more new plays ready to explore. 

Meantime, we are looking forward to DANGEROUS TO DANCE WITH

“Dangerous to Dance With” written by Bill Rogers and directed by Gerald vanHeerden, a featured event of DREAM UP FESTIVAL 2019, presented by Theater For The New City, Crystal Field, Artistic Director.

Johnson Theater Space, 155 First Avenue (between 9th and 10th Streets), NYC for FIVE PERFORMANCES ONLY: 8/30 Friday, 9pm; 09/01 Saturday, 8pm; 09/02 Sunday, 6:30pm; 09/04 Wednesday, 9pm; and 09/05 Thursday, 6:30pm

What’s funnier than a play about SEX, GREED, AND SELF-DECEPTION?

A paranoid playwright, a broken acrobat, a porn star, a neurotic farmer, and a plumber (who may be a hitman), walk in a secluded Missouri farmhouse.

Directed by Gerald vanHeerden and stage managed by Roumel Reaux, featuring a cast that includes Colleen Grate,* Luke Hofmaier,* Mark Hofmaier,* Drew Jordan,* and Mark A. Keeton* portraying a  fascinating ensemble of characters descending into a dialogue that asks a question that can encompass everything, everywhere, anytime … should they laugh or should they die? (*Members, Actors Equity Association))

Dangerous to Dance With premiered as part of the 2014 Kansas City Fringe Festival at the Off Center Theater in Kansas City’s Crown Center. This is its New York premiere.
Learn more at https://rogersbill.com/plays/dangerous-to-dance-with

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